The man who spent more than a decade helping to celebrate the contributions of outstanding Virgin Islanders through his role as chair of the Rotary Club of St. Thomas II’s Person of the Year Award Committee was himself held up over the weekend by hundreds of community members who mourned his passing and described it as a “great loss” for the territory and its continued development.
Elliott McIver Davis, affectionately known by anyone he met as Mac, died Saturday evening at the age of 70.
“We are heartbroken,” a statement from the family said. “Our Mac passed away peacefully and surrounded by his family. He beat cancer after battling it for more than 20 years. He pressed on regardless, as he liked to say, and we will too in his honor.”
Over the decades, Davis juggled a range of hats that allowed him to touch many sectors of the community at once. Along with being a dedicated Rotarian, he was also a Salvation Army volunteer, a longtime Magens Bay Authority Board member, a past Board of Trustees president at Antilles School and a cancer survivor deeply involved in anything that put funds toward research for a cure. He was a cycler, marathon runner, former V.I. solicitor general, trusted legal counsel and a best friend to many.
Above all, he was a dedicated husband and father.
With all that and more, it’s clear that his loss has been profoundly felt.
“There are so many memories I have of Mac, but above all, he was just simply a special person that cared about others,” attorney Tom Bolt said Sunday. Bolt, chair of the Salvation Army Board in the territory and a member of the organization’s national board, said Davis was a consistent and caring volunteer, showing up every week on Tuesdays to help distribute food.
“He’d been involved for years, over 20 years,” Bolt said. “Helping others in need inspired him. He wanted to just give of himself and help change their lives.”
That spirit also led Davis to Rotary, where he “did great things and honored people who did great things,” Bolt said, recalling the excitement and fervor with which Davis used to bestow the club’s Person of the Year Award. Davis was also surprised with the award in February 2002.
“He never thought he would have lived as long as he did,” Bolt said. “’Each day is a gift,’ he would say, and that he lived to see his children all graduate from high school, college and grad school, then be able to celebrate four grandchildren and decades of being happily married to the love of his life, he knew that he had experienced all that he wanted to.”
A mentee of the late V.I. Superior Court Judge Verne A. Hodge, Davis was inspired to attend Howard University Law School and upon returning to the territory, not only served as V.I. solicitor general but later as trusted counsel to former Gov. John deJongh, who said Sunday that Davis’ gift for writing helped build the relationship between the executive and legislative branches.
“I had asked Mac to come up to Government House as assistant legal counsel, and while he was revered by the staff for his immense knowledge of government and law, what I cherished most was that he was such an excellent writer,” deJongh said. “He crafted meaningful pieces of legislation and in responding to the Senate, was able to communicate exactly what I wanted to get across and what we wanted to accomplish as an administration. Personally, he was always cheerful, always found the good in everything, was positive and always wanted to help.”
Davis moved to St. Thomas at the age of nine and was an alumnus of Antilles School, from which his children, Joe, Elizabeth and Elliott, also graduated. Davis continued to give back through his service as Board of Trustees president, ensuring the growth of the school through the development of the Mark C. Marin Center and other capital projects.
“I am deeply saddened to hear of Mac Davis’ passing,” Head of School Shannon Harris said Sunday. “His legacy is a huge part of Antilles School – an alum whose children attended our school and a long-time trustee and chair of the board whose vision helped shape and secure Antilles’ place in the community. Mac leaves an incredible void, yet he leaves us with so many lessons through his quiet example. He lived a life of gratitude and passion for what’s truly important in life as a man who loved his family, his friends, Magens Bay, and all things Virgin Islands. I extend heartfelt condolences to Debbie, Joe, Elizabeth, Elliott, Erin, Stanley, and the grandchildren on behalf of my family and the Antilles School community.”
Davis continued to be a long-serving member of the Magens Bay Authority Board, looking at how to balance the preservation of the area while ensuring economic growth.
“The Board, management and staff of the Magens Bay Authority are very saddened at the passing of our Board member, Elliott McIver Davis,” Authority Board Chair Katina Coulianos wrote Sunday.
“As a longtime member of the St. Thomas community from his school days, Mac grew up looking at the view of Magens Bay every day. In 2006 he was asked to join the Board of the Magens Bay Authority by then Chairman Aubrey Nelthropp. He eagerly accepted. He was chosen because of his interest in and love of the beach, as well as his legal profession,” said Coulianos.
“Always careful to point out that ‘he was not the Authority’s attorney,’ he nevertheless brought his training to bear in discussions on matters before the Authority and would give sound advice. As a member, he gave his opinions publicly on issues at meetings. Sometimes his viewpoint was quite different from others and presented an alternative. At other times he was very circumspect. Based on his experience on other non-profit boards, he shared his knowledge and ideas to the Authority’s benefit,” said Coulianos.
Davis served as vice chairman for two years and as secretary to the board for nine years, nonconsecutively.
“He spent a lot of time at Magens, a location which nourished his spirit, and missed it when he was not here. Although his officer positions, especially that of Secretary, were important, his biggest contribution was in helping the Authority with the acquisition of Smith Bay Park,” said Coulianos.
“Many persons in various branches of Government helped to make this a reality. In his position in the Government, Mac was able to monitor and advise the Chairman and Board about progress of the acquisition by the Government and transfer to the Authority. This occurred and was concluded during the Turnbull administration. The Authority then planned and developed the Smith Bay Park (Lindqvist Beach) facility as it exists today, open for public use and enjoyment. To view, experience and participate in the beauty of these places is to understand how Mac felt about them and this island. We are thankful that he used his energy and talents towards preserving them for use by present and future generations,” Coulianos said.
Davis made headlines in 2001 as he prepared to run the 26.2-mile Nashville Country Music Marathon. In 2013 he ran the New York City Marathon, representing the Cancer Society of the Virgin Islands. He was also known on island as an avid cycler.
“When I started riding with the cycling group downtown in 2008-2009, Mac Davis was a stalwart of the group riding from the Fortress lockers behind the hospital,” Walter “Wally” Bostwick wrote Sunday. “But as his disease progressed he was reducing his time on his bike.”
“We went to Puerto Rico in January 2010 and did a three-day ride around that island for a total of 350 miles. Full of enthusiasm after that, we organized a ride around St. Thomas that totaled 50 miles, with various places to stop with lesser mileage. Mac was hesitant to commit to the event, but I assured him that we would go slowly on the first 10-mile segment. I was pushing him because secretly, we had the event cycling jerseys printed with ‘I Ride with Mac’ on the sleeves. His sleeve only said ‘Mac.’ This was unveiled the morning of the event to the humble gratitude of Mr. Davis. Various riders from that day have since ridden at events around the world proudly stating, ‘I Ride with Mac.’ We expect to be riding this Sunday, wearing our sturdy old jerseys, in memory of our missing friend and fellow rider.”